The poet Michael Donaghy has quit as chairman of the judging panel for one of Britain's most prestigious poetry awards amid suggestions of possible bias.
Mr Donaghy stepped down after Neil Astley, the head of Bloodaxe, an independent poetry publisher, claimed that the Forward Poetry prize was perpetuating the success of a small coterie. William Sieghart, the founder of the prize 11 years ago, will replace him for the final judging session before the winners are announced on 9 October.
Mr Astley said part of the problem lay in the process whereby the previous year's winner then became a judge in the following year. Mr Astley said women also seemed to fare badly and only one had been shortlisted for this year's prize.
Mr Donaghy is published by Picador and Sean O'Brien, also a Picador poet, is on the panel after winning the £10,000 prize for best collection last year. They and the three other judges, the poet Lavinia Greenlaw, Peter Stothard, former editor of The Times, and Rosie Millard, the BBC's arts correspondent, have produced a shortlist of five. It includes two other poets published by Picador Peter Porter and Paul Farley; Mr Porter happens to have been one of the judges last year when the prize went to Mr O'Brien.
Mr Donaghy said he had stepped down to counter any notion of bias It would be easier for the others to concentrate on the quality of the anthologies if they were not worried how their decisions were being interpreted.
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